Excerpts from “Maiden In Light” (continued)

Laurel meets her famous wizard-uncle, Lord Redmantyl:

The wizard smiled gently…. “Are you glad to come with me now, Laurel?”

“Oh, yes!” she answered sincerely. “I- I felt you and I wanted so much to be with you. I wondered what you must be like. They tell such tales.”

Redmantyl listened with amusement. “What do they say?”

“They speak of your powers,” Laurel replied with unabashed enthusiasm. “They say you have marvelous magic as no other wizard before.” She hesitated, then boldly ventured: “Will you show me, Uncle?”

“Very well.” He lifted one hand and turned his wrist slightly; a small, bright orb of sparkling light appeared upon his fingertips. Then he saw Laurel’s crestfallen face.

“You are disappointed?”

“Yes,” she confessed. “`Tis- Well, I’ve heard of the great storms at your command and I thought-”

“Laurel, I am a man of quick temper, but I am rarely so angry as that!” Redmantyl answered. “You will not see me in such a rage, I promise you.” He pulled his horse to a stop. “But you would have a marvel of magic. What shall I do for you, Niece?”

“You are Lightmaster?”

“I am called so.”

“Then I would see something lightsome—bright and wondrous. Please?”

“As you wish.” The orb was still balanced upon his fingers; he tossed it into the air, eyes fixed upon it—and it exploded with a pop.

Brightness burst about them, forming itself into myriad points of light, fiery reds and oranges, glittering blue and silver, blinding white, like thousands of small suns, from the shadows of the trees to the very clouds, twisting up and up and up into a spire of light.
Laurel’s little mare neighed fretfully, but the girl laughed, her senses dazzled. She was breathless, enervated, bathed in glamour. Light burst in her head and through her heart. She was inside it, as if it were hers. Magic ought to be a terrifying and destructive force that thundered and burned and killed; Laurel had not imagined how the same power might be used joyously. She could play with the light, she discovered: the orbs responded to her, shying like living things from her fingertips. She could divert them into frantic, spinning whirls and bounce them against her palms.

The Red-Lord, at the center of the whirling glory, watched her. “Is that satisfactory?”

“`Tis wonderful,” she answered. Her hand closed to capture one glittering ball, but the light dissolved through her fingers. “Most wonderful.”

Up and up, the spire began to lose its pinnacle. Sparks flew out across the sky and dissolved; orbs struck the trees, the earth, the wizard, herself, and did not emerge. In a minute, all but five were absorbed. This bright quintet, a fairy retinue, remained about Redmantyl.

“What is it like to be a wizard, Uncle?”

“`Tis a profession of marvels,” he replied. “But it also has great dangers and heavy burdens. A wizard must live on his guard. Only the most powerful survive. Weakness is death.”

Laurel was not discouraged by this warning. “Are you happy in it?”

“Yes,” Redmantyl answered. “Shall we go now?”

“Yes, Uncle.”

As they rode, Laurel marveled at this strange man. He could create brilliant glories for her amusement and he was so gentle in his manner, yet she knew that he possessed great powers, remarkable and furious. Those tales of storms and fallen wizards were not lies. He had done such things; she knew this as surely as she knew that he’d been calling to her for years, summoning her to Wizardes Cliff.

She did not doubt that life in this wizard’s house would be like nothing she knew.